Unacceptable New Normal Revisited

Gabe Patti, "AR-15" Oil and marker on panel 24" x 24"
Gabe Patti "AR-15" Oil and marker on panel 24" x 24"
I'm reposting something I wrote back in 2016 in light of the recent mass murders in Atlanta and Boulder.

I hesitated to repost this. In fact, I didn't even think of revisiting this missive until a full two days after the Boulder massacre. An eternity in internet time.

Because this is the new normal. 

When I first wrote the below post I was incredibly affected by the mere threat of a shooting in my area, which was followed the day before a relatively run-of-the-mill shooting near, but unrelated to, the Community College of Philadelphia. 

Both are nowhere near the horror of massacres like Sandy Hook or Columbine. But personally affecting nonetheless.

When I heard the news about Boulder I barely flinched. I even watched the live stream where I saw events unfold. I saw bodies on the ground, and the Police demolish walls to reach the killer. Not even a twinge of anxiety or grief.

I felt disconnected even though Colorado is my home, Boulder a place I hold dear. 

But my home State leads in avoidable gun violence. As a college Senior, I watched from an impotent distance while Columbine students were dying. I again powerlessly listened over the radio about how Aurora Moviegoers expected to enjoy a film but then died. And again, I listened sorrowfully from hundreds of miles away as a shooter took aim at a Women's healthcare clinic not 5 minutes away from my childhood home, next to a King Sooper's of all places that I've shopped at and where my Mother often gets gas. 

Then there was that random shooting across from my Highschool's football field, next door to a good friend's home.

And lest I forget the shooting at a Chuck E. Cheese, where most of my generation ate sub-par pizza and swam in germ-infested plastic balls. 4 dead, one gravely injured. The first to die next to the Parantally preferred salad bar.

I'm numb now. So the only way I hope to process this most recent murder spree and illicit some emotion is to re-visit what I wrote after expecting a shooting at a school in the Philly area while I drove to work at a school in the Philly area.

This is unacceptable.

So to add an addendum to my previous post.

The only difference between these events and the ones I wrote about is that my worry has to do with school shootings specifically. But the rhetoric from the right is the same. More guns, armed teachers, more security, or just any old schmuck with a gun could stop all the violence.

My question then is, why do mass shootings continue even in places where there are armed citizens? There were armed guards at Stoneman Douglas and at Columbine. One such guard is against so-called "school-shields." And why do cops say armed citizens at best only complicate dire situations? If I'm armed during an active shooter event at my school, how are SWAT teams to know who is and isn't the aggressor?

And finally, the data supports fewer guns, not more.

Here is that post with some grammatical and spelling corrections (Grammarly insisted). The original post can be found here.

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While organizing on Temple's campus last semester, the FBI issued a blanket warning for a possible shooter somewhere in the Philadelphia area.

The very next day, while driving to one of my Adjunct jobs, this story came on the radio, where an actual shooting occurred at the Community College of Philadelphia.

As nothing happened the day before, my fears reemerged as I thought the previous day's threat could still be in effect.

After my initial shock and political indignation over America's irrational gun-boner, I attempted to rationalize away my fear with the fact that I work an hour outside of the city, and the likelihood of my small school in South Jersey falling under the warning was slim to none.

But as I prepped for my students' arrival I found myself planning a defense from a shooter, fretting over the fact that my door doesn't lock, the largest barricade large enough is too far across the room, and the window openings may be too slim to escape through (and may lead to more danger).

And today, I am reassessing my grading policies because now if a student disagrees with a grade I may get shot.

I have given my fair share of bad grades over my short teaching career. And those students most certainly deserved them. I was once called "tough but fair" by one student (an awesome one at that) so I feel confident in my grading.

I take a lot of time developing grading standards that are transparent and fair. My rubrics are clear, and my students are asked if they agree to my standards at the beginning of each semester. I've found that as long as I can show a clear system to them, they don't argue. The understanding is that if assignment X has a predetermined result of Y, then they know exactly what to expect when they slack.

Even attendance has an assigned value.

But even with all that, I've been challenged by students who clearly cheated, even after I presented them with evidence of their infraction.

So how do I inflate my grades to avoid dying? Do I reward cheating so as not to be murdered?

The fact that I have to ask these absurd-sounding questions (as well as set up my classroom like a doomsday prepper) is more than problematic, it's deeply troubling.

Now I understand that I do not teach a high-pressure subject, and it seems the UCLA shooter was in a high-pressure career track, under a great deal of pressure to succeed, and whatever grade he received made him crack. And whatever that grade was, I have a feeling it would have been perfectly acceptable to some of my students.

But I have been told that, due to failing a student, that I have ruined careers. And I'm certain I've ended Academic careers with one grade. So I am again left to contemplate certain death for giving an F.

What is worse is how facts about gun control are ignored like Global Warming or Vaccinations (that's right anti-vaxxers, you're as bad as Lamar Smith!).

The evidence is clear, more gun regulations mean fewer shootings, lax rules mean more shootings. Just look to Hawaii and Alaska for proof. To over-simplify, the more guns the more shootings. You don't need to be a scientist to understand this, but sometimes it helps to ask one.

I easily found that source from one of the most reliable fact-checking organizations out there, Factcheck.org. They were founded right here in Philly at an academic institution, the University of Pennsylvania, and importantly are not beholden to profit.

They say the same, that more guns do not equal fewer shootings.

And if you are not into "science" or "facts" and respond more to heart-tugging issue-based arguments to make this point clearer, here you go.

As an Academic, I tend to avoid sources that reinforce my bias, as the Medium.com article does. But the article makes good points and includes personal stories of teachers including one that would rather leave their job than accept Campus Carry laws.

And don't you dare tell me that I should carry. There's even more evidence that suggests, unless I am a highly trained member of law-enforcement, with hours and hours of firearms training, as well as exposure to high-stress live-shooter simulations, I am as useless with a gun as my Dad is with Twitter.

It's time for evidence-based, reasonable gun laws, universal background checks (supported by most Americans), fewer guns on the streets, and zero in the classroom. I will likely be giving out a few more bad grades in the future and I'd like to live through them.


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